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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 3:13 pm, 15th October 2019

I will not vote for a general election until the extension is secured, and we are not currently in that position. We can trade these discussions all afternoon, but the absurdity is threatening no deal, which would cause huge harm to this country and fundamentally undermine the Good Friday agreement, and throwing away any progress that has been made in the negotiations because the Government think the “do or die” pledge is more important.

My question to the Secretary of State, if he wants to answer it, is this: if it comes to 30 October and the negotiations are still continuing and making progress, is it the Government’s position that they will extend article 50 to allow that progress to continue, or will we leave on 31 October? Which is the priority? I would like an answer to that question, and it is up to him whether he wants to give one. Our country needs to know, because it is absurd to say, “We’re on the verge of an agreement, but we are still going to leave without a deal because we said we would.” That is a ridiculous situation.

The ongoing Brexit negotiations are the backdrop to today’s debate. We may or may not know in the next 48 hours whether the Prime Minister will be able to put a deal to the House under the section 13 procedure. Let us wait and see. I have learned to be extremely cautious about the sorts of reports that are coming out on the progress that is being made, and I have learned to wait to scrutinise the final text.

I remember standing at this Dispatch Box at 10 o’clock at night on 11 March, when news of the last deal came through. The then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster received the news as I was trying to respond—that is no criticism of him. The deal dramatically came through at 10 o’clock at night, and 24 hours later it had fallen apart because the Attorney General had given his advice on what the deal meant. So I have learned to wait to see what happens, and then to look at the detail.